There is a problem in technology and the way it is used to operate and run almost everything in the world now, and that is how vulnerable it is to attack. Not as in someone is going to break up a computer running a nuclear power station with a baseball bat, but far more internal, into the hardware and software that is seeing to it that it achieves its goals smoothly. According to experts in cybercrime, there are three types of human threats to technology, those who are seeking to steal money, individuals seeking to disrupt for political gain or simple amusement, and the nations who are developing their co-called cyberwarfare abilities to harm or even destroy enemy nations' infrastructure, be that militarily or otherwise.
It was this last that director Alex Gibney was concerning himself with as he once more delved into a murky, secretive world to bring the reality of what most were not aware of into the public eye. A highly prolific documentarian, there was the accusation he was so driven to explain and highlight all these subjects that he was spreading himself thin, though by the point Zero Days was released he had become a kind of brand in himself, a reliable relater of important information that was usually only relegated to internet sites patronised by the conspiracy minded or those with their own personal agenda - or grudge. But all that was not to say what he was doing was not valuable, or indeed valued.
He kicked this one off with a favourite scene of documentaries discussing secret operations: the denials and refusals from those in the know. In this case it was the security services who were telling Gibney they could neither confirm nor deny the existence of what the rest of the film fairly substantially proved the existence of, which was an item of computer malware, a virus in layman's terms, that had been designed by operatives in the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel that had the purpose of sabotaging Iran's nuclear programme. The reason they wanted to do this was simple: war. Not the promotion of war but the prevention, for Iran had made it clear they would love to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth.
Then again, Israel may well have wanted to respond in kind, or even launch a pre-emptive attack, so it was surely in everyone's interests that World War III did not begin in the Middle East. What Gibney dipped his toe in but failed to truly commit to was the justification for these acts, he was more interested in the whys and hows which to his credit he set out in terms that were easily understandable whether you had experience of IT and its accompanying technologies or not, and tracking the provenance of the so-called Stuxnet program to hold both the Bush and Obama administrations to account. Obama was rather dragged into the cyberwarfare that had been instigated with some enthusiasm by Bush and his team, and more than them the operations at the CIA, NSA and more recently devised Cyber Command, which on this evidence moved him to seek a deal with the Iranians.
That would appear to have staved off the threat of another US-led conflict in the West Asian regions, but the stern warning Gibney was delivering here was that thanks to their efforts in devising expertise in shutting down key aspects of national necessities, be that power or water or whatever, and doing that with incredible precision, that there were those agencies who would follow in their footsteps and not be so worried about diplomacy. The ex-director of both the CIA and NSA is interviewed and is such a cheery chappie that the film seems to be saying, get a load of this guy, gaily skipping into the apocalypse that his staff orchestrated without recognising what genie they had let out of the bottle, as meanwhile an actress delivers opinions from those who were not prepared to speak on camera that essentially tells us we're in deep trouble now that cyberterrorism and warfare is a very pressing possibility. As ever with doomsaying documentaries, the actual solutions are thin on the ground, actually they're non-existent here, suggesting the internet holds the potential to destroy us all. Sleep well. Music by Will Bates.